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Revolutionising remote assistance within the oil and gas sector with video enhancement technology

Published by , Deputy Editor
Oilfield Technology,

Niclas Elvgren, Head of the Professional Solutions Business Unit at Imint, considers how new video enhancement software is poised to unlock the full potential of remote assistance devices used within the oil and gas sector by addressing video quality issues.

Imagine a bustling oil exploration site, where on-site workers are engaged in complex drilling operations, geological surveys, and ensuring top-notch safety protocols. Equipped with advanced body-mounted cameras, headsets, or smart glasses, they seamlessly transmit high-definition live video feeds to remote oil experts, geologists, and drilling engineers. This technology empowers the wearer to make precise decisions, significantly reducing errors and enhancing overall efficiency.

These types of devices are already being deployed across the upstream oil and gas sector, where precision and real-time communication are paramount. Often referred to as remote assistance devices, these modern technological breakthroughs serve as an invaluable link connecting on-site workers with off-site experts, enabling instant communication in demanding and high-stress upstream oil and gas sector environments.

The picture isn’t perfect, yet…

Regardless of the type of camera or headset, two crucial elements of remote assistance devices still need to be perfected in order for the technology to reach widespread adoption in the oil and gas sector: reliable, high-quality video, and intuitive control of the onboard camera.

While remote assistance device manufacturers have made strides in connectivity and camera resolution, they have yet to address the inherent challenge of maintaining stable video feeds from cameras that are constantly in motion, and therefore may deliver blurry or shaky video.

In fast-paced oil and gas exploration and production scenarios, particularly ones involving equipment troubleshooting and complex drilling operations, on-site workers are constantly making head movements unconsciously. This is not a problem for on-site workers – as their eyes can quickly adjust to see exactly what they want to see.

That said, the video quality for remote oil and gas experts viewing the feeds has, to date, been far from a real-life experience. Feeds from body-worn cameras can appear shaky or dark to remote viewers, greatly reducing their effectiveness and even causing viewers to experience motion sickness.

Cutting-edge technology to the rescue

Fortunately, a new era of technology is emerging to confront this challenge head-on. Imint has developed a new suite of software solutions called Vidhance for Remote Assistance that helps organisations eliminate shaky video, greatly improving the value and outcomes of their remote initiatives.

These new technological advancements allow remote viewers to select an object on the live feed to lock onto it as the camera’s focus point, using automatic tracking and zooming to centre the object regardless of how it or the camera wearer moves. The suite also empowers remote viewers to adjust the camera’s exposure settings so they can ensure properly-lit imagery in even the most challenging high contrast conditions.

Hands-free is the way to be

Some organisations and remote assistance solutions have attempted to integrate stabilised hand-held smartphone or tablet cameras as the primary video input device, but they have a major inherent flaw – they require the on-site user to hold the device the entire time, leaving them with only one free hand.

In the upstream oil and gas sector, where workers often need both hands for critical tasks, this limitation is a significant drawback. While video stabilisation is a common feature in smartphones, it cannot safely be mounted for hands-free use in challenging environments, and it is typically limited to the device maker's camera app, making it unavailable for third-party apps used to stream live video for remote assistance like Teams and Zoom.

Head-worn cameras and smart glass device manufacturers are now beginning to implement video stabilisation that is always active – even in live video scenarios. The tuning differs from that of smartphones, as the primary goal is not artistic video creation, but rather ensuring a clear and steady video stream for remote experts.

Moreover, this technology grants remote experts control over features like zoom, object tracking, and exposure adjustments, crucial tools for effective communication and decision-making in upstream oil and gas operations. Achieving this requires collaboration with solution vendors to enable remote assistance software to effectively manage the headset camera.

The best of both worlds

To fully realise the potential of remote assistance devices in the oil and gas sector, it is vital to converge cutting-edge wearable camera technology with sophisticated software solutions that prioritise video quality for raw videos being streamed. This approach enhances the functionality of these devices, granting greater autonomy to remote participants.

Now, with new video enhancement technologies available to oil and gas sector companies using remote assistance devices, systems can be built that deliver incredible results. Not only will these new software developments enhance the capabilities of any camera they are paired with, but they offer greater control to the remote participant so the on-site wearer does not have to fidget with settings or focus. Recording solutions add even greater value, offering the ability to re-watch live events and use them for training or analysis to improve future responses.

As we witness the growing adoption of remote assistance devices in the oil and gas sector, fostering a collaborative ecosystem becomes increasingly important. By providing access to advanced technologies and embracing flexible subscription models, oil and gas sector organisations can ensure that remote assistance devices stay current and remain equipped with the latest features, driving further improvements in upstream oil and gas exploration efficiency and safety.

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